Marva Jeanne Pitt Riley grew up in east Tarboro on a street where the neighborhood village raised all the children and helped teach all the children.
When she came of age, Mrs. Riley did the same thing: She became a teacher.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from North Carolina Central University and taught elementary school. When illness took her from the classroom, she continued to teach. She gave grammar lessons on the front porch of the family home on East Church Street. She helped friends and family, and later some staff members at the Golden Living Center, where she spent the last years of her life, to ensure that their work was well done.
Marva Riley died on Sunday, June 5. She was 78 years old. But her legacy of teaching, that tradition borne on East Church Street in Tarboro, will continue.
The Marva Jeanne Pitt Riley Endowed Scholarship Fund has been established at North Carolina Central University to honor her and to train future teachers. Donations are being accepted at https://24282.thankyou4caring.org/vlb-donation (Please designate that the donation is for the Marva Jeanne Pitt Riley Scholarship/ Account E01466.) Checks (with Marva Riley Scholarship/Account E01466 on the memo line) may be mailed to:
NCCU Foundation, Inc.,
P.O. Box 19363
1801 Fayetteville St.
Durham, NC 27705
The scholarship will ensure that future young students can follow in the footsteps of a woman who persevered.
Marva Jeanne Pitt Riley was born on October 13, 1937 to Lowney and Bennie Pitt of Tarboro. She attended the Perry School and later W.A. Pattillo School, where she was active in the band, was an outstanding majorette and was the scorekeeper of the basketball teams.
She joined St. Paul AME Zion Church at an early age and later served as secretary of the Sunday School. Her first job was as a cashier at Garrett’s Drug Store in the neighborhood.
After graduating with honors from Pattillo High and North Carolina Central University, where she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., she and her husband, Joseph Gilbert Riley, moved to New York, where Marva became a mother a third time and taught at Morningside Elementary School. She was devoted to her students until her career was derailed by multiple sclerosis.